January 29, 2017

A Must-Try Vocabulary Resource!!

I was at a workshop last week. The workshop was about building vocabulary. Our literacy specialist, Ms. Sonya Vannoy, who is AMAZING, taught us lots of ways for students to interact with and learn new vocabulary words. She informed us that research shows that students score lower on tests because they don't know the vocabulary words. Students struggle when a question asks them to go back into a text and define a word. As she taught, I began to think about the math vocabulary my students have to know. Yes, I have taught the skills and strategies. But honestly, no -  I cannot say that I have spent enough time on vocabulary words. Then Ms. Vannoy showed us Quizlet. I wanted to run back into my classroom and begin using it immediately!

Here's how it work:
  1. Sign up for a FREE account at Quizlet.com. (You can also upgrade, but for now, I'm sticking with the free version.
  2. Create a "set" of vocabulary words. You need to have at least 12.
  3. Once you have your "set" made, you can do so many things!! Students can:
    1. Study flashcards
    2. Learn the words
    3. Spell the words
    4. Test on the words
    5. Match the words
    6. Play "Gravity" with the words
    7. Play "Live" with the words

I'm going to tell you about the "Live" option.

  1. Make sure everyone has a device that can connect to the Internet. We use Chromebooks.
  2. Go to your account and choose "Live."
  3. On your interactive board, it will tell students to type in www.quizlet.live. It will also give them a log-in code.
  4. Once they type in the code, they type their first name.
    1. I make it a rule - first names only. If someone doesn't follow the rule, you simply click their name to remove them. This ensures that no one puts a silly name.
  5. When everyone is in, you hit "Start."
  6. Each student will have an animal appear on his/her screen. This animal represents the group he/she is in. For example, all the students with a rhino on their screen are in the "Rhinos" group. I give students 20 seconds to find their groups. All groups are also displayed on the interactive whiteboard. 
  7. Once you click "begin," questions will start. 
  8. Each group will have the same vocabulary word on their devices. However, each student in the group will have a different set of word choices. Students must view all members' screens to see who has the correct word.
  9. If the group is correct, they move ahead. (All teams are shown on the interactive whiteboard throughout the game). If groups miss one, they go all the way back to zero!
  10. The first team to 12 wins!

* This game is excellent for teaching teamwork and collaboration! If students don't work together, it is impossible to win the game!

* Your students will learn their vocabulary words because they want to win!

* If groups miss a word, the correct word and definition appear on the screen for them to study.

January 17, 2017

Classroom Organization Tips

An organized classroom is a happy classroom! Today I'm going to share a few organizational tips that help me keep my sanity!

These drawers are a life-saver! I teach math, science, and social studies, so I keep papers that I will need soon in these top drawers. I am very cautious with personal student information, and my own, so I have a shred drawer. When it gets full, or when I have time, I take this drawer to the office shredder. We use behavior cards for behavior management, so I keep a drawer full of these. We use NC Studies Weekly Newspapers to supplement our social studies curriculum, so I have several weeks' worth run off in this drawer. Every morning we do NC "Tidbits," so I have these in bags, ready to go each week. I give a weekly math homework sheet, so I have several weeks of this run off, too. I also send home weekly multiplication games for students to play at home, so I have these ready to go, too!

Supporting My Pen Obsession & Tracking Assignments
Does anyone else have an obsession with pretty pens? I keep mine organized, by color, using this organizer that I purchased from Michael's. In the middle of the organizer, I keep my grade sheets. My homeroom is pink and my block two is green. When assignments come in, I use a corresponding grade sheet to see who has turned everything in. My grade sheets also have a place to record grades. When grades have been recorded, I file the graded work to send home and I put the grade sheets in a drawer to record later. Once grades have been recorded, I put the grade sheets in my "shred" drawer. These grade sheets, which are editable, are available for purchase in my store my clicking here.

Chromebook Storage
I have 10 Chromebooks in my classroom. When I had six, I had them on the countertop. Now that I have more, there wasn't room to store them. I have tried lots of options, but this is my favorite. I use file organizers to store them. Mine are metal and came from Wal-Mart - they were around $10 each. I used a silver Sharpie to label them #1 - 10. One file holder holds #1 - 5 and the other holds #6 - 10. I also numbered the chargers. Everyone knows which number to use and they know to put them back, in order. It clears up the countertop for students to work and it looks so nice! I also purchased a metal crate to store headphones in. Most students use earbuds, but someone always forgets them at home.

At My Desk
I like to keep my desk area organized. I purchased a file holder and pretty folders to keep important papers at my reach. I also purchased a file drawer from Lowe's Hardware to keep important items in. It was an ugly blue, so my husband spray-painted it purple, my favorite color! Then he drilled it to the wall. I made cute labels and used double-sided tape to tape them on the inside.

Helpful Boxes
The last area I want to share with you is by the door. I have three important baskets here. The first is my BoxTops basket for students to turn in BoxTops. The second is my "Lost and Found" basket. This has helped tremendously! Students simply put things they find in here, rather than bringing them to me or wandering around the room asking who something belongs to. When students lose something, they know where to look first. I have a student who is in charge of cleaning out the basket every other week. The third basket is my "Extras Box." This also helps maintain my sanity. If students lose a paper or for whatever reason don't get one, they don't have to ask me - they simply check the box.
I hope you have found some helpful organizational tips here! I would love to hear your best tips!!

January 13, 2017

Media Center Makerspace

I teach at a K-6 elementary school in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. Our media center has always been one of the busiest and most important parts of our school. Why? Our school knows the importance of reading, and we want to instill a love of reading in each and every student. Our media coordinator, Mrs. Laura Bowers, has spent countless hours choosing a variety of books for all interests. We don't force children to read "on their levels" or read books to take tests. Instead, we guide students to choose "just right books" that they are interested in. When new books come in, Mrs. Bowers does book talks on our school's morning news and children rush to the media center to get their hands on these treasures! It's exciting to see so many children that love reading! Our media center truly is amazing!

Not only do we have thousands of books, but our media center now has a Makerspace! Mrs. Bowers wrote and received a grant to make her dream come true. By definition, a Makerspace is, "A place in which people with shared interests, especially in computers or technology, can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment and knowledge." So what does this look like in a school's media center, and why does every school need one? To find out, I took my students to our media center this afternoon. Here is what we learned.

What is in a Makerspace?
Our school's Makerspace is a place for children to create. The Makerspace is located in our media center. Some of the items in the Makerspace are:

  • art supplies
  • Legos and a Lego wall
  • crafting materials
  • drawing books
  • Chromebooks
  • magnetic building kits
  • a chalkboard
  • littleBits building kits

What do students do in a Makerspace?
Students come to the Makerspace when they have an idea to create something. They may want to create a model of something after reading a new book. Maybe they learned about electricity in science class and want to work with the littleBits kits. They may want to come and make a card for a Veteran. Students can come alone, with partners, or in small groups to work. They share ideas and create together.

What are rules/guideslines for a Makerspace?
There are few rules for a Makerspace. Ours include:

  • respect the work of others
  • share ideas
  • share materials
  • work collaboratively
  • return materials where you got them from

I encourage you to explore a variety of Makerspaces and try to implement one in your school! And if you already have one, I would love to hear about it!!